Davidsbeenhere is a YouTube channel run by Miami based travel content producer David Hoffmann. The channel has around 570k strong subscribers. David is a ‘travel host, producer and social media influencer’ too. Subscribe Davidsbeenhere to watch more videos from him. Follow David on Instagram and Facebook.

Jisham Ashraf

A talk with David Hoffmann

May 31, 2020 · 7 min read • 

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A decade long experience in travel vlogging, a 570k strong subscriber count on YouTube, 131k followers on your Instagram page, a number of viral videos to your credit, and thousands of episodes covering almost 77 nations. Great achievement indeed. Congratulations David!

Thank you so much! Yeah, it has been lots of hard work and many years of commitment. I’m always striving for greatness and always aim to be the hardest-working person in the room.

Tell us something about you. What do you do apart from vlogging?

Apart from making travel content, I like to plan trips. I also love doing puzzles with my kids. I hang out with my kids a lot and eat. I’m a huge foodie! I have to work off all of those calories to stay in shape, though, so I work out a lot, too.

In which year did you start vlogging and which place was the first to visit? Do you have any pleasant memories to share?

I first started making videos back in 2007. The first trip I really documented was the two weeks or so I spent in the Czech Republic and Ireland in January of 2008. During my nine days in the Czech Republic, I visited Prague and took lots of day trips, including one to Plzeň, where the Pilsner Urquelle Brewery is located. It’s the birthplace of pilsner beers and I’m a huge beer enthusiast, so that was fun. While we were in the country, we went to Špindlerův Mlýn, which is popular ski resort area in the mountains. But we got lost while driving in the mountains, so someone told us to follow him and that he’d show us the way. The guy wound up driving a million miles an hour down treacherous mountain roads and we almost flew off the side of the mountain trying to follow him!

Looking back, how difficult was the journey? Is it satisfiying now?

It was a really difficult journey. It took a lot of time and effort, lots of money, and tons of sacrifices. I didn’t make any money for the first three years, and once I started making money, I had to spend a lot of it to keep everything going. During the early days, I also had to learn how to be myself on-camera, which was a journey in itself. Later, when I switched up how I filmed my content and started vlogging, I spent hours upon hours studying some of the top vloggers in the world to learn how to vlog while still being myself. But yeah, it’s satisfying to be where I am today, but I’m nowhere near finished.

Tell us something about your education? What course and where did you studied?

Sure. I went to the University of Miami. I studied entrepreneurship there and graduated in 2008…not with honors, though. Jajaja. But it’s where I learned to build a business and was instrumental in me getting David’s Been Here off the ground.

Are you travelling solo? Or do you have someone to assist you?

I started off by traveling with an assistant and a camera guy, but now I travel 100% solo. Back when I started traveling, cameras weren’t portable and they were super expensive. But as technology advanced and cameras became smaller and more powerful, I started to learn about how I could do it all myself. Learning how to film myself and locations, how to shoot b-roll, how to edit…all of that was a huge learning process. But I wanted to do it because traveling solo is much more personable and authentic. It’s hard for me to truly immerse myself in a culture and a location if I have other people with me. Traveling alone comes with its challenges, for sure, but if I can’t really immerse myself in a location like I want to, I’d rather just not go.

Which is your next destination nation?

I’m hoping for Georgia, Guyana, or Trinidad and Tobago. It will most likely be Georgia, but obviously, with the global pandemic, everything is very uncertain right now. It all depends on which country opens up first and whether I can travel safely or not. Safety is key in all of this.

From your videos, we assume that you are presently in Kerala. Which food and place did you like the most in Kerala?

Jajaja (Laughing in Spanish), that’s actually a common misconception about me. I don’t release content as soon as I film it. I was in Kerala back in January. But to answer your question, that’s hard. The food in Munnar, Kochi, and Trivandrum were all incredible. I had an amazing beef curry with parottas on my first morning in Trivandrum and I also had an incredible prawn curry in Kochi. Another dish I loved was the pazham pori and pothu curry I had in Trivandrum. As you can see, I have a lot of favorites!

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Financially, coronavirus pandemic is a setback for the entire world? Did COVID 19 affect your schedules? How did you manage to upload videos on a regular basis even during lock down?

It definitely affected my travel schedule. I had lots of tentative travel plans for the spring and summer of 2020 and all of them were postponed due to the pandemic. I was in Bhutan in early March when the outbreak became a pandemic. Bhutan closed its borders to foreigners the day after I arrived, and when other countries began announcing plans to close their borders, I made the tough decision to cut my dream trip to Bhutan short so I could get home safely.

As far as how I was able to upload regular videos during lockdown, it’s all down to how I film. I shoot 2-3 episodes per day when I travel, and I spend 10 days in each country, minimum. So I usually produce anywhere between 25 and 40 episodes per country. I don’t edit or release any videos until I’m at home, usually 2-4 months later. By releasing videos every other day, a 30-episode series can provide me with 2 months of content. I usually do one trip per month, so I always wind up with a backlog of content to release. That’s how I was able to have fresh travel content several months into quarantine. My next series is Bhutan, which I’ll start releasing the first week of June. I have enough episodes to last me through July.

Besides vlogging, which subject interests you the most?

One of the great things about what I do is that I’m able to incorporate several of my passions into it, like history and geography. I’m a huge history buff, so I love exploring historical sites when I travel. I also like to study maps of the places I visit so I can get a feel for where everything is. Outside of that, I’m also really into space exploration and sci-fi! Star Wars and the Marvel movies are my jam.

Davidsbeenhere is a growing YouTube channel supported by a brand of loyal subscribers. Which was your favourite fan moment?  

Ooh, that’s a hard one. I’ve had so many amazing and positive fan encounters, especially over the past couple of years. I’m so grateful that there are people out there who support what I do and want to come up to me and take photos with me when they see me out. I’m just a regular guy who does what I love, so it’s always surprising when it happens! But what a lot of people may not know is that I actually go to my subscribers for advice on what to see, do, and eat when I travel, and a lot the local guides you see in my videos are subscribers who offered to show me around their cities. I’ve had subscribers who have brought me gifts, subscribers who took care of me when I was sick on my first trip to India, epic meetups with awesome subscribers in Lucknow and on Juhu Beach in Mumbai, and so many other awesome, positive fan experiences. Encounters like that really make me feel good because it lets me know that what I’m doing is impacting and inspiring people in a positive way. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.

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ShelVines: An exclusive interview with RJ Shelvin James

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Have you observe, during all these years, any particular trend that goes well with the viewers. From your observation, what kind of videos viewers like the most?

I think people like seeing things that are unusual and out of the ordinary. But for me, specifically, food-related content does the best, so I try to showcase an attraction or two along with a meal in just about every episode I release.

In your opinion, does the title of videos, and thumbnail play a greater role when it comes to increased viewership.

Those are the main parts of the formula, to be honest. They’re incredibly important. You could have the best video content on the planet but if you don’t have an eye-catching thumbnail and a title that makes people want to click, they won’t watch it. You always have to be conscious of that.

What are your suggestions/advices to budding YouTubers who intend to start a YouTube channel?

I suggest finding your particular niche and putting out as much content as possible that’s related to that niche. For example, if you want your channel to be about travel and food, then create content that’s directly related to that. Trying to branch off and doing other things can hurt or take away from what your audience is subscribed for. I suggest dropping content every day, and be consistent. Also, don’t give up. It can take a while to find your audience and to grow. I was on YouTube for ten years before I started really gaining traction with views and subscribers. Believe in yourself and what you’re doing, and just keep creating, no matter what.

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Tell us something about your family? How supportive are your family members and friends?

 My family is great! They’ve supported me from day one of this journey. I couldn’t do any of this without my wife, who is my rock and holds down the fort with our two daughters while I travel. My mother and mother-in-law help a lot as well. And my father has been one of my biggest cheerleaders from the very start. He believed in what I wanted to build even when others were doubtful. I owe everything to my family. I wouldn’t be here without them.

What are your future plans? 

As far as travel plans, I talked a bit earlier about the countries I’m looking at right now. I won’t go anywhere where there are safety issues with health or anyplace where I’d have to go into quarantine immediately. But as far as the future of David’s Been Here, I want to keep growing my YouTube audience while growing into other sectors. I’ve been looking into starting my own Airbnb business. I don’t want to give too much away right now, but my ultimate goal is to change travel and change the way people see the world.

Do you have any plan to diversify contents in order to suit the changing demands of your subscribers? If yes, what kind of videos you’ll produce in future?

When it comes to diversifying my content, that’s one of the reasons why I try to go to different places that many people have never seen, and why I try to showcase not only the food but also the history, culture, attractions, and people. For example, last year I visited Suriname, a country that isn’t on most peoples’ radar. There wasn’t much high-quality Suriname content on YouTube at the time, so I’m glad I was able to showcase its amazing food, locations, and diverse culture and inspire other people to visit. I also curate travel guides and top 10 lists on my website of unique places to visit and things to eat in different destinations around the world, and I re purpose old content from older trips.

We, indeed, heard many stories about income from YouTube. What’s the reality? According to you,  Is YouTube a reliable source of income? Are you satisfied with your present income from YouTube? Is it worth your effort? Does money really matter in content creation or is it just a passion?

In terms of revenue through YouTube, once you become a YouTube partner, you make roughly $1,000 USD for every one million views. It can be higher than that depending on where those views come from—some people who have an audience of mostly American viewers can make $10,000 per million views, while if your audience is mostly in a country like India, it’ll be a lot lower because of the rate that the advertisers advertise at. It’s definitely worth the effort. I know people who make over a million dollars a year from YouTube just through ad revenue. If you do what you love and get rewarded for it, it’s 100% worth it. As long as you can make ends meet and take care of yourself and your family, whether you bring in $50,000 a year or a million, it’s worth it. But you have to be passionate about the work.

What are the prominent changes in your life after you have crossed 550k subscribers compared to a phase where you had only 100 subscribers? 

One thing having a larger number of subscribers does for you is that it looks better for potential sponsors who may want to work with you and for casual viewers, because they see that you have a large number of subscribers. They’re more likely to click on your videos and subscribe if they see that a lot of people enjoy your content. Once you reach a million subscribers, they take you more seriously. Sponsors also look at the number of views on your recent videos, so if you have a higher number of subscribers, there’s a better chance that the views on your recent videos will be high enough where they’ll want to work with you.

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A candid talk with YouTubers Ashna And Saleel

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Can you name a few of your ardent followers?

Sure! There are so many who support me regularly, but off the top of my head, I can shout-out FitAngie, who always leaves awesome comments on all of my videos, and Travel With Paul, who is an amazing fan from Shillong who showed me around the state of Meghalaya last year. But there are so many others who I love seeing comments from on my videos.

What software/applications do you use for editing and enhancing content? 

I use Adobe Premiere Pro to edit my videos. It’s part of Adobe Suites and is one of the best video-editing softwares out there.

Which is your most favourite YouTube channel?

That’s a hard one. There are so many travel and food content creators I admire. But I have to give it up to Mark Wiens. He goes hard like I do and has been killing it for years.

Who is your most favourite YouTuber?

Same as the last question. Mark is on another level. He’s also a great guy and someone I’ve learned a lot from.

Which video of yours do you like the most?

For that, I have to go with my 101 Indian Street Foods to Eat Before You Die video (embedded below). It’s one of my more recent videos. I compiled my favorite 101 Indian dishes I ate across my first five trips to India, and it includes dishes from Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Meghalaya, Gujarat, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Telangana, and a few others. It took me about a week to put the video together and people seemed to really respond to it. I have a ton of other favorites from my India, Suriname, and Armenia series as well.

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There are many challenges faced by YouTubers while they shoot videos. What are the most glaring challenges you have faced while shooting videos?

I think the most glaring challenge I’ve had while filming is running into issues with my own equipment. I’ve had my filming equipment and hard drive fail on me while I was shooting. I always prepare before I film and I can come up with the narrative of the video I’m filming really quickly, and I’m basically like a machine when I film. But it can all come to a screeching halt if something stops working. It really sucks when that happens.

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image courtesy: Davidsbeenhere.com

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